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Protecting yourself from your garden

05/01/2008 - I am green-thumb challenged. I can grow many things, but it's generally not food. Not that I haven't tried, but I find it much easier to buy it than to grow it.

For you who succeed at gardening or perhaps taking it on for the first time, remember what you are doing. No, I don't mean feeling the joy and accomplishment of a seed the size of a pin head turning into a bounty of delightful cuisine. I mean the running of the bull (or is it the deer) to till, disc, and otherwise prepare your soil followed by bags of plant food, bug killer, animal feces, and grass killer so you can share your take with your neighbors Ė like those of us who can't get anything edible to grow.

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Most likely, you haven't used your tiller since last Fall (or maybe even last Spring). I hope it is not the same gasoline from last year that you are using now. It may not work well if it has already "gelled" from sitting idle in the tank for the last six months. Check the spark plug and engine oil, as well.

If you are new to this or you decided to relocate your garden, call Miss Utilities first or you may not be watching your cable, using your phone, or accessing the internet on your computer while you write out your penalty check for not having called in the first place.

Wear durable work shoes or boots, not tennis shoes or (horror!) doing it barefoot. You only have to see once the remains of a toe or foot that got wrapped up in a disc to appreciate the use of proper footwear for this project.

Wear work or gardening gloves to protect your hands. Especially if you are tilling the ground the old-fashioned way. No, on second thought, borrow or rent a tiller. Just don't forget to ask someone knowledgeable to show you how to use it. We are not born with such knowledge already instilled in us. Again, it is a safety thing as well as saving face when your neighbor watches your first attempt at running it. Better yet, ask your neighbor to demonstrate how to use it so he can till the ground for you.

Follow the instructions that come with the bags and sprays of chemicals. Using too much of a good thing will kill your chances (and your pet, your neighbor's pet, all of your grass) of seeing the fruit (or vegetables) of your labors. Buy the amounts you need. Don't bulk buy these products unless you can use them. Bulk-storing these chemicals in a garage or shed is only begging for trouble.

Gardening takes work with the right balance of seeds, water, and soil preparation. Throw that balance off and you get what you don't want. That can include a serious injury. So learn before you do; then do it right so you can be safe at home.

Randy DeVaul is an internationally published writer and author with more than 25 years in safety and emergency response services. He has authored three performance-based safety books and is now writing Being Safe At Home: Surviving the Hazards of Living in Your Home. Comments welcome at safetypro@roadrunner.com.

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